Former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang has alleged in a 6600-word memo that the social media giant knew leaders of countries around the world, including India, were using their site to manipulate voters — and failed to act, according to a news report by Buzzfeed.
Her memo is filled with concrete examples of heads of government and political parties in Azerbaijan and Honduras using fake accounts or misrepresenting themselves to sway public opinion, Buzzfeed said.
The news report states that in countries including India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, Zhang found evidence of coordinated campaigns of varying sizes to boost or hinder political candidates or outcomes, though she did not always conclude who was behind them.
Buzzfeed said that in India, she worked to remove “a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence” the local elections taking place in Delhi in February. Facebook never publicly disclosed this network or that it had taken it down.
Zhang said she worked through sickness to take down the network of more than a thousand actors working to influence the election.
“We’ve built specialised teams, working with leading experts, to stop bad actors from abusing our systems, resulting in the removal of more than 100 networks for coordinated inauthentic behaviour. It’s highly involved work that these teams do as their full-time remit,” said a spokesperson from Facebook.
The spokesperson added that working against coordinated inauthentic behaviour is its priority, but it is also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement. “We investigate each issue carefully, including those that Ms. Zhang raises, before we take action or go out and make claims publicly as a company.”